Looking into the crystal ball

by Sonia Straface

BRAMPTON, Ont. – At the second annual Fast Forward: A Deeper Look Inside the Future of Trucking event hosted jointly by the CITT’s Toronto Area Council and Truck News, a panel of industry veterans and representatives gathered to help looking inside the crystal ball and predict what’s the future holds for the industry.

The event took place at M-O Freightworks in Brampton, Ontario on Wednesday night and covered a wide variety of topics. Panelists included: Ryan Tilley of Tandet Group, Vania Agostinho of Carrier Centres, Katie Erb of Erb Group, Jim McKay of Avleca Group, Carolina Billings of The Hive Consulting Group, Larry Mitchell of United Van Lines and Marc Poland of Sheehan’s Truck Centre.

Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the discussion about where trucking in heading the next 5-10 years. The panel mostly focused on two major themes: the role millennials will play in the future of trucking and how diversity will be the key to success going forward.

Millennials and the future of trucking

It’s not a surprise that the millennial generation was a topic on the panel, as many in the industry know that a changing of the guard is coming soon.

As baby boomers start to retire, it seems that millennials will be filling their shoes – skipping over Gen Xers entirely ­­– explained Billings an HR specialist who says this is a good thing since millennials are more receptive to change and new technology.

“Change is not an easy thing for humans,” added Tilley, a millennial himself. “We like change, but we like to control the change. I think millennials and our generation has experienced such rapid change throughout our life, we don’t know any different. We’re looking for something new and if I have an app on my phone that hasn’t updated itself in two weeks, then they’re out of date now and I’m going to find something else. Our generation is more quick to adopt change because we’ve seen change as being a positive thing. There are negatives to change, but we have a more optimistic outlook that things will change again.”

Above that, McKay, who claimed he has worked with an employed many millennials recently, said that the young generation has a lot to bring to trucking.

“For me one of the big things that stands out is their drive,” he said. “They’re not afraid to tell you what they want. They’re outspoken about working remotely…They’re very open and adaptable to change and secondly, perhaps more importantly…making decisions is a lot easier for them. I have worked with boomers and making tough decisions is difficult for them. With millennials, they come in, they process things and make a choice.”

Mitchell added that millennials are also more innovative than its older counterparts.

“Typically the millennials are utilizing technology to assist them in their role and they don’t have to be in the building in order to be successful in their position,” he said. “They can do it remotely from their smartphone, or laptop or tablet.”

But don’t think that hiring these millennials is an easy task. The trucking industry is struggling to find anyone to work with them, but it is having a harder time attracting younger people into the industry. So to attract these millennials, panelists advised the audience on ways they can make trucking more appealing.

Erb said that as a millennial herself, trucking companies should promote ways in which new hires can and will move up the ladder within the business, since that is attractive to the younger generation.

“I think as a millennial you want to constantly grow and learn and evolve. I like to be challenged, so when one challenge is finished I want something else,” she explained. “I think millennials want to constantly climb that ladder. And at Erb we have a lot of long standing employees, that have been in the same position for 20-30 years and they’re fine with that. But if I was in the same position for two years, I’d go stir crazy.”

Tilley agreed with Erb, but added that millennials want more flexibility and recognition in the workplace and that is something that trucking needs to be better at doing if they want to recruit younger people.

“I think millennials…need flexibility on when they can get in the office, when they can get work done. A lot of them have young families and they want to be there to watch their children grow up,” he said. “And then more than that, millennials really want recognition to say they’ve done a good job. And I don’t think we’re very good at that.”

Tilley added that once you hire millennials,  make sure you understand that their work style is much different from the examples set by the baby boomer generation.

“So my grandfather and father, they were both in at 7 a.m. out at 6 p.m,” he explained. “But technology now allows us to complete these tasks in a wide variety of environments. So quite frankly I could that all from my kitchen table if I really wanted to. The value of being in the office is lessened. And I think that’s the struggle for the older generation. I think they see it as not working hard, but it’s not that you’re not working hard, it’s that you’re working hard in a different way. So to attract the top talent you have to embrace this change. Maybe your sales guy or ops guy isn’t in the office, but are they effective? That’s the core of it.”

Diversity is key

Diversity is a word that gets thrown around a lot in trucking today. Many people know what it is, but it is hardly execute it. Getting a mix of genders, races, ages, and beliefs within a company is statistically proven to create a successful environment, but yet we still see trucking as a predominately white and male-dominated industry.

“The biggest challenge is to adapt diversity,” said Mitchell. “It’s easy to hire people that think the same way you do, but there’s so much talent out there. I think the real winners on the shipper and the carrier side will be the ones who embrace diversity.”

And that means the ones who hire women into executive roles.

“I think women as executives are fantastic,” Billings said adding that they bring a lot to the table. “Women love to network, they love to collaborate and they know how to nurture and coach other staff members…I think the female voice, not just at the executive suite, is a voice that has been needed (in trucking) for a very long time.”

To attract women, Agostinho said it’s not just about changing policies, it’s about making women feel comfortable in their workplace by creating an even playing field.

“I don’t think that companies need to adjust policies to accommodate women,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, everyone should be an equal playing ground. If there are changes it should be equal for everyone. However, for me specifically it would be nice to see female washrooms on the shop floor.. you want females to feel part of the team.”

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.